JIM PETERS: Billy Maldonado at home in Dixie

2012-01-18T22:00:00Z 2012-01-19T05:40:03Z JIM PETERS: Billy Maldonado at home in DixieBy Jim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 18, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

It's 58 degrees and sunny in Atlanta today.

There's plenty that Billy Maldonado misses about home, but the wintry weather isn't one of them.

The two-time wrestling state champion at E.C. Central moved to the A-T-L, his wife Sandra's hometown, in 2010 after two years as his alma mater's athletic director.

"We always talked about how we'd love to live in the South," Maldonado said. "We live a quarter-mile from her mom. They're great people. They watch our baby (Siena, 2). It's like my family in East Chicago. I'm in a good spot."

Following a year as an assistant coach at Central Gwinnett, during which he ran camps, Maldonado applied for an opening at The Lovett School, a private Class A school of about 600. It wasn't just any coaching position. Predecessor Jim Glasser retired following a 36-year run that included 751 dual wins (fourth nationally), a 93.9 winning percentage (first nationally), 56 state champions, 16 undefeated seasons (including a string of 91 wins) and 13 state titles (11 traditional, two dual).

The task of following a legend didn't overwhelm Maldonado, who had never been a head coach, but wasn't exactly lacking experience. He was a grad assistant at Iowa State, where he and older brother David both starred, from 1999 to 2002, and an assistant at West Point from 2004-7.

"It's something where I knew I would have the support of the families and the community," Billy said. "I knew they loved wrestling and it was a place where I could build a championship team."

While David was coaching Merrillville to the Duneland Athletic Conference tournament title Saturday, Billy was leading Lovett to the Class A team state finals. The Lions lost to Jefferson, which is ranked 24th in the nation.

In addition to having a class format, Georgia holds its dual tourney during the season.

"It's interesting," Maldonado said. "People'll say, 'Wow, you're done?' We're really not. We have the rest of our season now."

Georgia has three schools in the nation's top 50, but Maldonado gives Indiana an overall edge on depth of talent.

"No matter where you're at, you're still working to try to do the same thing," he said. "To win."

Dixie's a long way from the Harbor, but out of sight doesn't mean out of mind.

"I'm the only (Maldonado) to ever leave," Billy said. "The biggest thing I miss is my family, my nephews and niece, not getting to watch them wrestle, play baseball, basketball. My dad and I really talked the most. He doesn't know a lot about wrestling, but he always had advice on dealing with situations."

David remains a source of experience on issues that come with being a head coach.

"Questions dealing with parents, how to deal with stuff you're not prepared for," Bill said. "He tells me, that's the way life is. Some kids need more guidance than others. Some ask more questions. He just tells me you have to be patient. He always preaches, you may not win all the time, but you can always do the right thing."

This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

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